The Law of Karma and the Holocaust


A spiritual teacher of mine said that the Jews deserved to be gassed in the Holocaust. That it was their karma. I disagree!!!

—Jo Graham, United Statesof Amerova


Dear Jo,

It is tempting to comment that this person is ignorant but, be that as it may, quoting the law of karma as indicating each person “gets what he deserves” certainly can’t be wholly denied — but it certainly lacks both wisdom and compassion to say so.

Paramhansa Yogananda taught that in cases of mass karma (like the Holocaust, or an airplane crash, or the destruction of the Twin Towers at 9/11/01), the karma of individuals is overtaken by mass karma. Mass karma can include the karma of a species of animals; a nation of people; a race; and so on. America apparently needed a wake-up call and someone had to “pay.” It wasn’t necessarily the specific karma of each individual who suffered or died at 9/11.

I have never heard anyone of true wisdom offer an explanation for the Holocaust and I suggest that the attempt to explain this great tragedy in terms of karma is probably pointless and thoughtless. It is not always ours to know the subtle workings of the law of karma.

In the Book of Job we have a famous example of this caution: Job is subjected to a “bet” between Satan and God. Satan bets that Job will abandon his faith in God if all of Job’s material welfare, health, wife, family and reputation are taken from him. As you may know, Job remains faithful “to the Lord,” though not without deep questioning and much suffering (both mental and physical). Job’s friends wonder aloud what “bad karma” Job must have (and committed) to “deserve” his fate. Job insists he has been faithful “to the Lord.” The message here is that it is better to view our tests as opportunities to hold true to the goodness and wisdom and compassion of God. Tests are the well disguised love of God guiding us toward ever deepening faith, trust, and unconditional love. While we cannot truly say tests are also not our karma, our attitude towards them is of uppermost importance. A saint sees all things, “good” and “bad,” as the loving hand of God.

The Holocaust was an important catalyst in the resettlement of Jews in Palestine. I’m not sure how to interpret that in light of so many decades of troubles but it is obvious that as a race, a nation, a people, and a religion, the destiny of the Jews is in the hands of God and the law of karma. Who can truly say what the meaning of these great tests are. I can say, however, with confidence that these trials can bring individuals either closer, or further, from God’s love and wisdom. I admit that many Jewish people lost faith in God as a result of the tragedy but I suspect many others deepened their faith. Beyond that, who can say and most should not try.

Many the blessings of divine light be ever with you,

Nayaswami Hriman

Seattle WA USA